Getting Started

Farm to School 101

New to the farm to school movement? You’ve come to the right place!

What is “farm to school”?

Farm to school is a people-powered movement that seeks to strengthen the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers. There are three basic elements to farm to school:

Farm to school activities help change children’s attitudes and behaviors around healthy eating while strengthening the local economy and creating more vibrant communities. Check out the resources below to learn more about farm to school and general tips on getting your program started.

Benefits of Farm to School Fact Sheet, National Farm to School Network

Shares research on how farm to school programming supports economic development, public health, education, the environment, and community engagement.

Farm to School Fact Sheets, USDA Office of Community Food Systems

Check out this series of fact sheets on a broad range of farm to school topics, including how to integrate local foods into school food menus, manage school gardens, and purchase local proteins.

Farm to School Census, USDA Office of Community Food Systems

Check out how school districts around Illinois and beyond are incorporating farm to school activities into their cafeterias and classrooms.​

Planning for F2S Success

The tools below will help you think through how you want to sustain your farm to school activities. Planning is critical to the longterm impact that farm to school can have on children, farmers, and communities!

Farm to School Planning Toolkit, USDA Office of Community Food Systems

This comprehensive toolkit helps sites build a team, establish a vision, and develop a strategy for implementing and evaluating their farm to school programming.

Evaluation for Transformation, National Farm to School Network

We recommend building a strategy to measure the impact that your farm to school activities have on food producers, health, education, and the environment. This evaluation guide will give you common language, guidelines, and metrics to build and assess your local food sourcing and gardening efforts.

Farm to School Planning Toolkit, VT FEED

Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day) developed a Farm to School Rubric, Action Planning Template, Impact & Feasibility Analysis Tool, and Media Kit to help farm to school teams create sustainable and beneficial programs.

Rethinking School Lunch, Center for Ecoliteracy

This planning tool identifies ten pathways to follow as you plan for innovation and change in school food: food and health, wellness policy, teaching and learning, the dining experience, procurement, facilities, waste management, professional development, and marketing and communications.

Additional Support

Looking for extra support to help you achieve your farm to school goals? There are partners around Illinois and across the country who are here to help. Click on the links below to find additional resources and personal support on your farm to school efforts. 

Illinois Farm to School Network (that’s us!)

Can’t find the right resource on the Illinois Farm to School Toolkit? IFSN’s Network Coordinator is happy to provide additional, tailored support and connect you to the appropriate resources. Click on the star to visit our Contact Us page and share your questions, or give us a call at 708-660-9909.

University of Illinois Extension

University of Illinois Extension assists educators and food service providers with resources on food & nutrition education, gardening, and finding local farmers. County Extension Agents are also a wonderful resource for farmers to learn about local schools who are engaged in farm to school programming.

Illinois State Board of Education

ISBE’s “Farm to Child Nutrition Programs” page hosts helpful information on local food procurement for Illinois schools and early care centers.

Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom provides teachers with educational materials to help teach students about Illinois agriculture. They have County Ag Literacy Coordinators around the state who you can contact for free resources and assistance.

National Farm to School Network

The Illinois Farm to School Network is a Core Partner of the National Farm to School Network. Click here to access their Resource Database, which provides hundreds of case studies, best practices, marketing materials, and how-tos on farm to school.

USDA Office of Community Food Systems

The Office of Community Food Systems at USDA provides grants, training, and technical assistance on farm to school. Check out their website and join their newsletter, The Dirt, to get the latest updates on upcoming webinars and the USDA Farm to School Grant Program.